Names are important.
Myung Ga Tofu and BBQ Restaurant (1944 Weston Rd., Weston, 954-349-7337) is a Korean restaurant but not really a Korean barbecue restaurant. There are no grills built into the tables, no ventilation hoods overhead. If the smoke won't permeate my clothes and pores and the last bite of meat wrapped in lettuce and garnished with bean paste won't be as fresh off the coals as the first, it may still be good, but I'm going to start elsewhere on the menu.
As we sat down on a recent chilly night, I looked at the sign in the window and thought, "It's Myung Ga Tofu and BBQ." The tofu comes first. So my first question to the server was whether they happen to make their own tofu.
Cool weather and the promise of homemade tofu mean one thing in a neighborhood Korean restaurant: jigae, a boiling stew of spicy broth, tofu, and whatever else flavors it ($10 to $14).
The only variable in the seven or so jigaes was the meat or fish component. A monomaniacal Korean tofu place I used to go to in New York City varied the kinds of tofu used in the dish, with dozens of possible combinations of soft tofu, firm tofu, "tofu dregs" (which were pre-tofu soft curds), and fermented soybean paste. Here it seems to be one grade of tofu, but it's a good one.
I got the mixed-seafood version with clams, oysters, and a single shell-on shrimp, my partner the mushroom one. Mine was the best jigae I've had in South Florida, hands down. The broth had the cleanest, freshest flavor I've run across in years, but it was that homemade tofu that put it over the top: creamy, rich, and sweet enough that we dumped broth off our spoons to better savor the tofu alone. If I were having another dish there, I'd strongly consider getting a "tofu steak" ($5.95) on the side.
Vegetarians who don't have a don't-ask/don't-tell policy should ask whether dried fish or meat stock are used as seasonings in the putatively meatless dishes, but as it goes, my companion's maybe-vegetarian mushroom jigae was fine but not as successful. The mollusks in the seafood versions offered a briny counterpoint to the sweet mellow soy base, and sweet-salty marinated meat served the same purpose in a beef version. But nothing emerged to balance out the winey wild mushrooms.
The panchan, dual-purpose side dishes/condiments, were good too, the bean sprouts a little overcooked but tasty, the seaweed salads and other vegetables extremely crisp and fresh. And the kimchis are homemade. The standard cabbage version was dressed with a sweet soybean paste and strewn with raw crabmeat.
To this and other small details, the cooks had paid obvious attention. Instead of the kitchen stirring an egg into the stew before serving, the restaurant provided eggs on the side to crack and stir in yourself, guaranteeing a tender egg-drop component.
Myung Ga's menu is short and simple, with little more than the aforementioned jigaes; four or five basic barbecue dishes; scallion pancakes; cool, rubbery naengmyun noodle dishes; and a few desserts. Since there aren't many Korean restaurants around here, the place has already written in the other basics you'll find at Korean restaurants without specialized ambitions, including jap chae (glass noodles with vegetables) and boekums, spicy stir-frys of kimchi with pork and tofu or squid.
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